+
More

The U.S. got a human rights report card from the rest of the world. They think we can do better.

The challenge to improve is coming even from some of the most repressive countries in the world.

Every four years, each one of the 134 member countries in the United Nations gets a human rights review. The U.S. just had its turn.

Images from U.N. Web TV.


At a hearing held May 11, 2015, 117 of the member nations spoke up. Each representative got only 65 seconds to speak, but it still added up to about three and a half hours of statements.

Guess what? The United States did not get a glowing review.

Nations repeatedly called out the U.S. for police violence and especially systemic racial discrimination by the police. Many of them also identified the continued use of the death penalty as a human rights concern as well as the ongoing operations at Guantánamo Bay. (In its previous review in 2010, the U.S. committed to “find a solution for all persons detained at Guantánamo Bay" — yet as of January 2015, 122 men are still kept at the facility.)

There's something deeply disturbing about countries often considered to be repressive or violent holding up a human rights mirror for the U.S. to look into.

Here's a quick paraphrasing:

Egypt: "Investigate excessive use of force by police and put an end to such practices. ... Abolish practices that target Muslim minorities at airports and that criminalize homelessness."

Chad: "Chad considers the United States of America to be a country of freedom, but recent events targeting black sectors of society have tarnished its image."

China: "Recommends addressing the root cause of racial discrimination and eliminating the frequently occurring excessive law enforcement against ... minorities. Stop massive surveillance activities both inside and outside its territories to avoid violating the right to privacy of its citizens."

Pakistan: "We have serious concerns about the human rights situation in the U.S. and make the following recommendations. ... Use armed drones within existing international legal regimes. End police brutality against African-Americans and rectify the systems that systematically discriminate against them. Prosecute all CIA operatives held responsible for torture. Combat Islamophobia and racial profiling."

North Korea: We are gravely concerned at the U.S. violations of human rights and recommend that the U.S. investigate CIA torture crimes, take measures to investigate civilian killings during the military invasions in Afghanistan and Iraq ... and take measures against racial discrimination.

There's lots more. You can listen to it yourself here.

OK, so maybe it's a bit ironic to have personal freedom protections questioned by North Korea. But country after country echoed the same concerns:

  • Systematic abuse of police power especially against minorities and people of color
  • Continued use of the death penalty
  • Failure to close the Guantánamo Bay facility
  • Inadequate protections for migrant workers and indigenous people

At least 36 of the 117 nations criticized the continued use of the death penalty and especially the disproportionate number of African-Americans sentenced to die.

It's a bad report card to say the least. The rest of the world is saying to the "home of the free": You can do a whole lot better. Don't you agree?

via FIRST

FIRST students compete in a robotics challenge.

True

Societies all over the world face an ever-growing list of complex issues that require informed solutions. Whether it’s addressing infectious diseases, the effects of climate change, supply chain issues or resource scarcity, the world has an immediate need for problem-solvers with science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) skills.

Here in the United States, we’re experiencing a shortage of much-needed STEM workers, and forward-thinking organizations are stepping up to tap into America’s youth to fill the void. As the leading youth-serving nonprofit advancing STEM education, FIRST is an important player in this arena, and its mission is to inspire young people aged 4 to 18 to become technology leaders and innovators capable of addressing the world’s pressing needs.

Keep ReadingShow less
Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Marlon Brando on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1973.

Marlon Brando made one of the biggest Hollywood comebacks in 1972 after playing the iconic role of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.” The venerable actor's career had been on a decline for years after a series of flops and increasingly unruly behavior on set.

Brando was a shoo-in for Best Actor at the 1973 Academy Awards, so the actor decided to use the opportunity to make an important point about Native American representation in Hollywood.

Instead of attending the ceremony, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Yaqui and Apache actress and activist, dressed in traditional clothing, to talk about the injustices faced by Native Americans.

She explained that Brando "very regretfully cannot accept this generous award, the reasons for this being … the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

Keep ReadingShow less

Co-sleeping isn't for everyone.

The marital bed is a symbol of the intimacy shared between people who’ve decided to be together 'til death they do part. When couples sleep together it’s an expression of their closeness and how they care for one another when they are most vulnerable.

However, for some couples, the marital bed can be a warzone. Throughout the night couples can endure snoring, sleep apnea, the ongoing battle for sheets or circadian rhythms that never seem to sync. If one person likes to fall asleep with the TV on while the other reads a book, it can be impossible to come to an agreement on a good-night routine.

Last week on TODAY, host Carson Daly reminded viewers that he and his wife Siri, a TODAY Food contributor, had a sleep divorce while she was pregnant with their fourth child.

“I was served my sleep-divorce papers a few years ago,” he explained on TODAY. “It’s the best thing that ever happened to us. We both, admittedly, slept better apart.”

Keep ReadingShow less